Elon Jazz Festival to bring national talent, area students and musicians to campus

The annual jazz festival includes workshops and clinics for middle and high school students, "jam session" opportunities for the community, and the free Jazz Festival Concert headlined by trumpeter Kris Johnson.

Elon University’s Department of Music will host the annual Elon Jazz Festival Feb. 22-24, assembling a community of musicians from campus, area schools and the region in celebration of a signature American art form.

This year’s festival is headlined by Kris Johnson, a Grammy-winning composer, arranger, trumpeter and director of the Michigan State University Community Music School Detroit. Johnson will be the featured performer at the Saturday, Feb. 24, Elon Jazz Festival Concert at 7:30 p.m. in McCrary Theatre in the Center for the Arts.

Student musicians and ensembles from 11 middle and high schools will meet on Elon’s campus on Friday, Feb. 23, for a day of clinics led by Elon faculty, professional musicians and a masterclass with Johnson.

Johnson is gaining renown in the jazz world and as a music educator. Most recently, he contributed to arrangements on the Count Basie Orchestra’s “Basie Swings the Blues,” which won the Grammy for Best Jazz Album earlier this month. Johnson has also composed scores for award-winning films and series, and his score for the web series “The PuNanny Diaries” won Outstanding Score at the 2011 LA Webfest.

Johnson was director of jazz studies at the University of Utah from 2015 to 2019, led a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education – Model Development and Dissemination Grant and was the education and digital programming manager for the Motown Museum.

The festival and concert are free and open to the community, and campus musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments and join jam sessions with Elon’s jazz ensembles Thursday and Friday nights, Feb. 22-23, at the Oak House.

“The Elon University Jazz Festival aims to provide world-class musical and educational opportunities for the local community through performance opportunities, educational workshops, and concerts showcasing interaction with national and international jazz artists,” said Alex Heitlinger, coordinator of Elon’s Jazz Studies Minor and festival organizer.

The full lineup of events includes:

Thurs., Feb. 22

  • 8:30 p.m. — Jam session with the Elon Jazz Combo at The Oak House (bring your own instrument)

Fri., Feb. 23

  • Throughout the day — Clinics in the Center for the Arts
  • 5 p.m. — Masterclass with Kris Johnson, McCrary Theatre, Center for the Arts
  • 8:30 p.m. — Jam session with the Elon Jazz Combo at The Oak House (bring your own instrument)

Sat., Feb. 24

  • 12:30 p.m. — Elon Faculty Combo Concert with Kris Johnson, McCrary Theatre, Center for the Arts
  • 7:30 p.m. — Elon Jazz Festival Concert with Kris Johnson, Elon Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Day Combos, McCrary Theatre, Center for the Arts